Australia's Woolworths first-half sales rise 6 percent

SYDNEY Wed Feb 5, 2014 6:14pm EST

SYDNEY Feb 6 (Reuters) - Australia's largest supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd said on Thursday sales rose 6 percent in the first half of the year, as online sales surged past A$1 billion ($892 million) for calendar 2013.

Group sales from continuing operations for the half-year ended Dec. 31 rose to A$31.84 billion including petrol, up from A$30.04 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement.

Woolworths and Wesfarmers Ltd-owned Coles, which together control 80 percent of Australia's supermarket sector, are expecting a pick up in trading this year as consumer sentiment improves following a tough 2013.

Shares in Woolworths were steady at A$33.92 in early trade, down from a peak of A$36.84 last April.

($1 = 1.1214 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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